For as successful as Mura Masa has been, he’s managed to stay quiet in the U.S. Now two studio albums into his career, Alex Crossan has yet to crack the Billboard U.S. Hot 100. While his breakthrough hit “Love$ick” with ASAP Rocky has been his biggest success so far, his song “What If I Go?” was also featured in a short, iconic ad for YouTube Music.
While listening to the singles from Mura Masa’s newest album “R.Y.C,” a change in sonic style is very evident. His self-titled debut album was composed of many electronic and poppy tracks with steel drum and mallet inspired sounds that could draw comparisons to fellow producers Cashmere Cat and Louis the Child. “R.Y.C” takes on a more grungy, pop-rock sound with its share of tight guitar chords and upbeat, dance drums. A more emo aesthetic is the result on “R.Y.C,” which established the album as the more thematic and cohesive of the two projects.
The title “R.Y.C” stands for “Raw Youth Collage,” the name of the first track. The song features an uncredited male singer that is heard in many other tracks on the album and could be Alex Crossan himself. Guitar tones, which are more common in the rest of the album, are at the forefront of this track. The track goes on to build up, break down and build up again; the beautiful mix of electronics and strings is thrilling. This song introduces the project’s title and sound in a great way.
“No Hope Generation,” the second promotional single, comes after “Raw Youth Collage” and cements the concept and mood of the album. The lyrics describe the troubles of the new generation by painting it as a “new hip sensation craze sweeping the nation.” The metaphor rides the line between being clever and corny very closely, but it fits the tone of the instrumental as an angsty anthem.
As the album progresses, the theme of youth troubles becomes even clearer. Utilizing up-and-coming young artists like Clairo and slowthai to express the feelings of the youth makes the theme more genuine. “I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again” features Clairo talking about a past relationship and contemplating throwing herself back into it. The track shows a more traditionally electronic side of Mura Masa’s production, but the fuzzy guitars and synths are still apparent on the chorus.
After this comes a short interlude that perfectly describes a movie-like visit to a girlfriend’s room via the “living room window” at 2 a.m. The dreamy guitars in the back complete this spot-on representation of ideal youth experiences. The song “vicarious living anthem” is the epitome of angsty jams on the album and arguably does it better than “No Hope Generation,” clocking in at just over two minutes. It’s a short burst of fuzzed-out pop-punk energy that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
The track “Deal Wiv It” is one of the most perfectly executed songs on the album. While still holding it’s somewhat comedic value, slowthai never actually says anything that’s outright trying to be funny, which throws away the possibility of a cringe-worthy joke that doesn’t land well. The tight instrumental is flawless. Something about the way the elements of guitar and organ come in as the verses progress makes you anticipate the chorus. “Deal Wiv It” covers a concept that lots of people can say they think of every day, and slowthai’s anger subsides for a second in the bridge to show a bit of sincerity. Even though he can’t stand the complaints he hears everyday, he’s not going to complain about his life: “I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
The album hits a slump once “In My Mind” and “Today” begin. These are the two slower tracks on the project, and they both lack memorable qualities. With a length of five and a half minutes, “In My Mind” drags on for too long and never truly pays off. “Today” is equally as lackluster and manages to have an even less memorable hook.
The track “Live Like We’re Dancing” is a very solid dance-pop song that is perfectly placed this deep into the tracklist; its late-night, rejuvenating mood is complemented by this. While not going above and beyond the qualities of an average party song, it does its job efficiently. The album did deserve a break from the upbeat energy of the first group of tracks, but when compared to the memorable quality of the rest of R.Y.C, songs like “In My Head” and “Today” will be quickly forgotten.
The last full length song on the album is “Teenage Headache Dreams,” which is a very impressive track. Mura Masa proves that he really can pull off a whole pop-rock album and melds three segments together with an impressive electronic swell into the last minute of the track. The listener would assume the album ends here, but a short instrumental outro is included after it. The track “(nocturne for strings and a conversation)” closes the album, and it’s the true hidden gem of R.Y.C. It begins with looped guitar and droning strings, and before you figure out what’s happening, a perfectly soothing and calm guitar line is established. The song continues for another minute and a half, and fades out begging to be put on again. It’s a beautiful way to end an energetic, angsty album.
“R.Y.C” is focused and concise. With the exceptions of “In My Mind” and “Today,” each track has memorable qualities of its own while still keeping a cohesive sound. Mura Masa also managed to make two of the most essential interludes to any recent album. His production is fantastic throughout the project, which is impressive due to how serious of a pivot this is compared to his self-titled debut album. The tight drum beats and guitar chords are complemented by fuzzy vocals on most tracks and solid performances from the guest artists (and possibly from Mura Masa himself).
That being said, it’s very niche. The album has an aesthetic that is strictly followed by the instrumentals and lyrics. As a fan of pop music, this is a short, fun album of songs that have no chance on the Hot 100 but every right to be there. Mura Masa makes an A24 teen movie of an album with a couple gems that outshine the rest of the cool rocks. For an artist in desperate need of standing out just a bit more, it was a complete switch-up of style that had to be done.